product that satisfed him, even if it was
temperamental: Straight from the freezer, the ice cream could still be chalky and
hard as a rock. But after several minutes
on the counter, it warmed a bit, and the
consistency became smooth—as good,
in his mind, as any full-fat ice cream.
He paid a graphic designer $30,000 to
develop the logo and the packaging, and
spent over $100,000 more on raw ingredients and materials, using up every last
paycheck from his day job. He decided
to call the brand Eden Creamery, to evoke
the idea that such a good-for-you ice
cream was a product of paradise, untainted by sin. (Not too long afterward, Woolverton realized he’d made a grave error
with his company’s name—a corporation,
Eden Foods, already held the trademark
and he had to scrap everything, coming
up with a new brand name—Halo Top—
and designing a new logo.)
Natural-food stores began buying
into the appeal. The frst supermarket
to carry his ice cream was Erewhon, an
L.A.-based gourmet chain that was also
Woolverton’s local grocery store. Luckily, the patrons were his people—the
kind who loved pricey indulgence so
long as they think it is healthy, too.
When Woolverton few up to San
Francisco to pitch the Bay Area Whole
Foods, the buyer put in an order for 225
cases without so much as tasting the
stuf. Tagging along with Woolverton
was a lawyer buddy from his basketball
league, Doug Bouton. Bouton had also
wanted to leave law; after the Whole
Foods meeting and a subsequent trip
to a trade show, Bouton wanted in too—
as Woolverton’s business partner.
Woolverton would continue to be
chief food scientist, and run marketing
and fnance. Bouton, a math and theology
major who still enjoyed managing complex fantasy football leagues, organized
Woolverton’s mess of Excel spreadsheets
into a supply chain and a sales operation.
Bouton set his sights on mainstream
grocery stores and raising money.
But when Bouton began showing up at the headquarters of
mass-market chains, he encountered resistance. “Every buyer
was diferent, but the pushback I’d get was ‘Healthy ice cream?
That sounds disgusting,’ ” says Bouton.
Serving perfect ice cream to buyers became one of the
co-founders’ primary challenges. Their product was still very
sensitive to temperature, and if the pints arrived encased in dry
ice they could take 45 minutes to thaw
to the ideal smoothness. Bouton began
showing up to meetings an hour or
more early, looking for ways to inter-
cept the ice cream samples before the
meeting so he could make sure to serve
them himself—stalling the conversation
or expediting it when necessary. If he
could get a buyer to taste an ideal sam-
ple, the meeting almost always transi-
tioned to negotiating deal points. If not,
Bouton visited 75 buyers in six
months. In 2013, the company signed
up three more Whole Foods regions and
several smaller chains. Halo Top’s
distribution expanded into supermarkets
across the country. Woolverton and
Bouton fnally quit their day jobs.
But just as the founders began to
get the ice cream on store shelves
nationwide, the company’s fnances
were on thin ice. Early in 2013, the pair
had raised $500,000 from family,
friends, and old colleagues, which they
hoped would sustain them until business took of. But to get on new store
shelves, they had to either give the
retailer the frst cases of product free or
pay a slotting fee—as much as $150 per
favor, per store. For large chains, these
fees could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, killing their cash fow.
As if that weren’t enough, in 2014,
growing pains with quality control had
cost the company a huge account:
Sprouts reduced its orders and eventually stopped carrying Halo Top in its
more than 200 stores.
The founders struggled to make ends
meet every month. Woolverton maxed
out fve credit cards, carrying a balance
of over $150,000. Desperate, Woolverton
applied for a predatory loan, which had
an interest rate of 24. 9 percent—and
got turned down. Bouton applied for the
loan instead, securing them another
$35,000. When the money arrived, they
celebrated. “That buys us like two more
months,” Bouton said.
BY THE END OF 2015, they had managed to raise $1 million from
angels and the CircleUp crowdfunding website, which gave
them a runway of 16 months. “Basically, 2016 was the make-
or-break year,” says Bouton. If they ran out of money this
time, they would wind down the company and sell it for
liquidation. “We’re not going to raise money again. It’s too
out to pasture
Ice cream companies have
been trying to cheat the
dessert gods for decades.
THE PITCH The NutraSweet ice cream
was powered by Simplesse, a newly
approved fat substitute derived from
egg whites and milk protein.
WHAT HAPPENED After the stuf had
received national buzz, the press tasted
it: “Many reporters took a spoonful,
grimaced and set down the rest of
their free food uneaten—perhaps a
frst in the annals of journalism,” wrote
Newsweek at the time. Two years
later, the brand was shuttered.
THE PITCH Two-hundred-calorie ice
cream bars and sandwiches sweetened
with sucralose (Splenda).
WHAT HAPPENED More than a decade
after being founded by two New York
City beer distributors, the brand was
acquired by Nestlé-Dreyer’s in 2004.
After hitting $325 million in 2011, sales
started declining with the ascent of
frozen Greek yogurt. In 2017, Nestlé
announced it was reformulating
its recipe to remove “unfamiliar
ingredients” so that it would seem
Breyers Carb Smart
THE PITCH Tailored to Atkins dieters,
this ice cream with only 14 grams of
carbs per serving uses a combination
of sorbitol and polydextrose.
WHAT HAPPENED As Atkins-mania
swept the nation, Carb Smart’s sales
surpassed $137 million in its frst year.
But the market soon became crowded
with competitors. Today, sales hover
around $30 million.